By Greg Echlin
If only Bob Boozer could have made it this year to hear his name mentioned with Dominique Wilkins, Jamaal Wilkes and Mark Aguirre among others in the 2016 class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, he would have basked in the moment.
Or, as Ella, his widow, put it, “All of you would have had to pick him up off the stage.”
In his hometown of Omaha, Bob Boozer died of an aneurysm four years ago.
Yes, it would have been memorable for Boozer to walk the halls of the College Basketball Experience in downtown Kansas City with the other honorees.
Hardly the magnitude of this moment, but 2008 was pretty special to Boozer, too.
That year Boozer traveled to Manhattan, Kan., for the 50-year anniversary celebration of the Kansas State team that made it to the Final Four in his junior year. Not only did Boozer have a chance to reminisce with his teammates from that 22-5 season (the Wildcats finished 25-2 in his senior year but did not make it to the Final Four), he saw K-State on the basketball map again in Frank Martin’s first season.
A few weeks later, the Wildcats were sent to Boozer’s hometown to play in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Michael Beasley in his only season with the Wildcats made a huge impact and Boozer was pleased to see first-hand Martin embrace the Wildcat basketball tradition.
But there was another reason why ’08 meant so much to Boozer. It was an Olympic year.
Back in 1960, Boozer put his NBA career on hold to play for the U.S. as one of the most dominating American gold medal teams in Olympic basketball history.
Forty eight years later, as an active voice with the Omaha Sports Commission, Boozer was excited for what was about to happen at what was known then as Qwest Center.
It wasn’t just about the two days of March Madness watching his beloved Wildcats, but more about the major Olympic event to follow a few months later when the U.S. Swimming trials were held in a basketball arena for the first time.
Boozer was someone who truly cared. About his alma mater, hometown. Most important about his family.
Though he didn’t make it to Kansas City, his wife and extended basketball family showed that they truly cared about him.